We’ve all seen our fair share of live-action adaptations of popular Japanese anime. Some have succeeded, some have been cruelly mocked for years, some forgotten.
There are a multitude of issues that arise with these particular adaptations. One, they are often whitewashed. Any cultural reference or significance that drove the original story gets stripped away. Two, the gravity defying antics that are achieved in anime cannot be replicated convincingly in live-action. Three, just about everything that makes the anime interesting or unique cannot be accurately captured in live-action. However, Japan has been proving Hollywood wrong for many many years, and with Kakegurui they have managed to lay out the perfect blueprint on how to adapt anime, twice.
For many of us on the Western Hemisphere, we may know Kakegurui thanks to Netflix. The anime is based on the Japanese manga from Homura Kawamoto and was adapted to anime in 2017. The series began streaming on Netflix in 2018. This film however, follows the live-action TV adaptation which aired in 2018, and is also available on Netflix. A fan of either series adaptation will be easily re-integrated with the 2019 film, fans of neither will still be able to follow along as it does not require any homework.
The story is set in Hyakkaou Private Academy, an elite school for the kids of Japan’s most wealthy and influential people. The student body in essence are the future of Japan and thus are taught in a very peculiar way to hone their skills and influence in the future. The student hierarchy is not determined by academic achievement or athletic ability, rather it is based on gambling.
The film is just as bombastic and insane as the anime, with the cast perfectly capturing the chaotic nature of it all. Each role is executed with such intensity and energy that at times feels rather jarring since it is live-action, but wholly impressive as they perfectly understand what makes the anime so addictive. The story that unfolds before is unrestrained by logic or basic laws of physics, just as the anime is. There is no attempt from director and screenwriter Tsutomu Hanabusa to ground the story in any recognizable reality. The camera swings around this highly unique environment as though it too defies the logic that the student body of Kakegurui have thrown off a cliff.
From the sets to the costumes to the glossy cinematography to the incredibly game cast, the film goes above and beyond to honour the integrity of the manga and subsequently the anime series. The final result proves that although you are adapting one visual medium to another does not mean that the qualities that made it special to begin with are stripped for the sake of realism. Kakegurui in every way possible is cranked up to an 11, which is just right for this adaptation.
Kakegurui‘s melodramatic and comical nature is perfectly captured on film. Thanks to an incredibly talented ensemble and a creative team behind the scenes this adaptation is a truly ambitious and fun ride.
Kakegurui enjoyed its Canadian premiere at the virtual edition of Fantasia Film Festival 2020 on August 26th
by Ferdosa Abdi